I turned in grades almost ten days ago. And ten days has left me enough time to defrag what was the Fall 2011 semester (also enough time to see The Muppets, watch Breaking Bad through season 3, and finish Shields’ Vonnegut biography, And So It Goes). The highlights follow, in no particular order.
- I taught three classes, 50+ students altogether: a new (for me) grad class, ENGL505: Rhetoric of Science and Technology, and two sections of ENGL328: Writing, Style, and Technology. 505 went well for the most part; I’ll probably return to Metaphors We Live By and Science in Action when I teach it again in Fall 2012. But I’ll replace The Social Life of Information with Kuhn, Polanyi (lectures), or Darwin. Or Mol, if I can ever get around to reading Body Multiple. Maybe add some of the “rhetoric as epistemic” conversation.
- The two sections of ENGL328 ran back to back on Mondays and Wednesdays. One section was in a preferable lab; the other section was in one of the worst teaching labs I’ve ever set foot in. A horrible space. And this was an improvement–an upgrade–from the space into which it was originally scheduled. Consequently I had more conversations than I can count with IT folks about why certain lab configurations work differently than others for teaching. This was one of the most nagging and unavoidable frustrations of the semester.
- These two classes were as night and day as any two I can remember teaching. Same projects. Same readings. But drastically different personalities.
- My teaching was observed three times in the second week of the semester, and the timing, while somewhat less than ideal in my opinion, had everything to do with the October 15 deadline for my third-year review materials. Why less than ideal? Well, it’s plain to me that my classes are stronger, move lively, and more representative as a scene of teaching and learning in the last one-third of the semester than in the first two weeks. Semesters follow arcs; relationships develop. The observations were overall fairly favorable nevertheless.
- Other than teaching, the first half of the semester was consumed with preparing the third-year review binders (which went in without incident and, by all appearances have been well received at the various stop-offs they’ve reached thus far) and planning and organizing the WIDE-EMU Conference.
- The conference went well, especially considering it was an experiment in conference-hosting with no costs to anyone, but had I to do it over again, I don’t think I’d both plan a conference and give a talk at that conference–on the same day third-year review materials are due. Too much. Everything went fine, but it left me sapped for the second half of the semester.
- In the second half of the semester, I gave a “Tech Talk” to our Art Department on “A Quick Rhetoric of QR Codes.” Basically it was 30 minutes of examples, how-to, and a plea for more discriminating uses. I also carried a digital-installation-qua-“poster” into the HASTAC Conference in Ann Arbor in early December.
- I attended commencement, heard George Gervin’s address and saw a half dozen students I’d had in class recently accept their diplomas.
- I helped the Honors College revamp its Presidential Scholars essay prompts and assessment tool (as a member of the HC Advisory Council). I also interviewed Presidential Scholar candidates in early December.
- I touched up the Masters Degree Consortium site, added a map, and more importantly, collaborated on a survey and all of the required IRB solicitations so we can proceed with circulating the survey in early-mid January.
- We released two issues of EM-Journal, one on the first day of the semester, and the second on December 1 at the Celebration of Student Writing.
- At our symposium on pursuing graduate education in written communication, I gave a short spiel titled, “Graduate School in Ten Understatements.” Tricky to offer one-size-fits-most advice that avoids 1) being discouraging and 2) meaningless platitudes.
- Nudged along a proposal for an online version of ENGL326 I’ll likely teach in the spring term. I think it’s finally, officially approved, and I spent a couple of hours this morning on the course materials.
- And then there were a small handful of proposals and ms. submissions at various stages that crossed my desk, that waggled through my in and outbox–one ms. revised and accepted, another conditionally accepted, and two different chapter proposals (one accepted; the other in the eds.’ hands).
- For the first time in a long time, I didn’t submit any proposals for a spring conference. No C&W. No RSA. And that’s in small part because travel funds will have long since dried up by then, I have a busy CCCC docket in March, and I’m usually too fatigued by May to feel all Let’s Go! about academic conferences. Might keep an eye out for the WPA Albuquerque CFP though. Or, if there’s a Great Lakes THATCamp this spring, might check it out.
Robert Johnson’s recent CCC article, “Craft Knowledge: Of Disciplinarity in Writing Studies,” argues that “craft knowledge” can function effectively as a warrant for disciplinary legitimacy. He sets up “craft knowledge” against an Aristotelian backdrop of techne, or arts of making, and advances a view of “craft knowledge” as a solution to still-raging disputes over the disciplinary status of writing studies (notably not “rhetoric and composition”). “Still-raging” is casting it too strongly; unsettled and ongoing are perhaps better matches with the characterization of those disputes in this speculative discipliniography–an article that imagines felicitous horizons for the field. As I read, I wasn’t especially clear whose conflicted sensibility would be rectified by invoking craft knowledge. Among Johnson’s concerns with the status of writing studies are 1) that it does not carry adequate clout (or recognition, for that matter) necessary for grant writing and 2) that it does not influence neighboring fields whose inquiries would be, by the input of those trained in writing studies, enriched.
On the problem of disciplinary status for grant writing, Johnson writes,
When the traditional disciplines–the so-called established fields of inquiry and production–work in an interdisciplinary manner, they in most cases still hold onto their disciplinary identity. This is painfully evident for those in writing studies when applying for external grant funding. On the application forms from such agencies as the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and even the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), for example, applicants must identify their resident discipline in order to be eligible. (680-681)
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An email message this morning asked about Flickr Creative Commons and citation: “How do you handle it?” I’d planned to address this in the class I am teaching on Tuesday morning, so it was more or less on my mind already. I responded that I prefer one of two methods for presenting the citations indexing the images used in a slide show: 1.) bookmark all of the images and any other web-based content using a unique Delicious tag and then present that one URL on a slide at the end of the presentation or 2.) provide a series of slides (as many as necessary) at the end with full citations for all of the sources used in the slideshow and in the talk. I used the first approach at Watson last month. In hindsight, I’d say that talk ranks fairly high (top five? top three?) among the talks I’ve given over the last few years, both in terms of quality and in terms of presentational style. Those 217 slides were, oh, 200 more than I’d ever worked with before, and the rapid-fire slide-changing got to be a little bit dicey (even after several practice runs, I lost my place once). But my point is that the single URL for my “Works Delicioused” worked fine. Anyone interested in the stuff I referenced could have followed up.
I’ll prefer the second option, “Works Slided,” when on Tuesday morning I take on some of the Presentation Zen stuff that frames our fourth and final unit in WRT195. This approach isn’t all that visually stimulating; these aren’t slides a presenter would necessarily show as part of the presentation, I mean. But they do make the citations ready-to-hand in case anyone should ask about a source–visual or otherwise. I’ve used this approach for presentations that include a lot of textual sources. And I’ve also blended the two: providing a conventional works cited along with a collection in delicious of all of the online materials. I’m sure there are other variations, but these are two are the ones I’ve been weighing today.
This teacherly weekend has also included commenting several drafts from 195ers–penciling comments in the margins and typing focused “looking ahead” notes in response to half-drafts of their unit three projects, researched arguments. There were sixteen drafts total. I commented six on Friday, five yesterday, and the last five today, reading and penciling up the margins first and then going back over each of the drafts to come up with a more focused end note. In the end note, I tried to focus as much as possible on 1.) the greatest strength of the draft (this was my opening gambit on all of them: “The greatest strength of the draft is…”) and 2.) the most pressing concerns given what they have been asked to undertake over the last 5-6 weeks. Spent roughly 90 minutes (two hours tops) commenting each of the last three days, but it will lighten the workload when they turn in finished drafts in another ten days or so.
The fourth unit of this course asks the students to translate the research argument into a 6 minute, 40 second Pecha Kucha presentation. So that’s where the PZ materials and slide show questions come from. I’m also reading around in Hume’s Surviving Your Academic Job Hunt (a book I’ll have more to say about in another entry one day soon perhaps), and it occurred to me, where Hume lists all of the various sorts of job talks one must be prepared to give that the Pecha Kucha format is conspicuously absent. In fairness, Pecha Kucha has only been around since 2003, and although Hume’s book was published in 2005, I don’t have any reason to think that anyone has ever been asked to give an academic job talk as a Pecha Kucha. But this does lead to yet another puzzler: why not? I mean, what is it about the 30-40 minute job talk that works out so well for academic audiences? I really don’t mean to balk at the convention. Not at all. But I do think there are questions worth asking about the performance conditions of a 30-40 minute talk relative to any of the alternatives, Pecha Kucha or whatever. Sort of an evocative thought experiment: maybe in thirty years we will see the top 3-5 candidates for a given position come to a campus where they all deliver Pecha Kucha presentations in common session. Then discuss. Wildly out there, I suppose, but interesting to me–especially so given that I have been thinking lately about the job talk genre, how best to prepare for such a thing, and so on.
Peeples, Tim. “‘Seeing’ the WPA With/Through Postmodern Mapping.” The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher. Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser, eds. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1999. 153-167.
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Stephen M. The Making of Knowledge in Composition. Upper Montclair,
N.J.: Boynton/Cook, 1987.
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My 06-07 NCTE Professional Resources catalog arrived in the mail yesterday.
I leafed through it, giving it a thorough looky-loo, and while I was curious to
find more kits than ever before, here are a few of the literacy education kits I
did not find. Maybe next year.
- Soup of Soups Recipe Writing Kit: Consists of 35 plastic spoons, a dried
leg bone from an unidentified farm animal, a cube of bullion, dehydrated
carrot flakes, and a stack of Country-classic Style Aunt Bonnie Recipe Cards
- What In the Heck Were You Thinking Kit: Inside you’ll find a small
glassine envelope filled with quick-forget dust, which, when you cast it into
the air induces such raucous fits of sneezing that everyone in the class will
fail to recall the wrong-headed lesson you danced through on the previous day.
Includes a set of handouts for fill-in-the-blank haiku.
- Remove-A-Tongue Kit: Face it, during the winter months students sometimes
put their tongues to the metal poles at recess. Minimize the trauma and
embarrassment with this kit. Contents: a Dixie cup for filling with warm,
- Singing Aloud Absent Musical Inclination Kit: Cochlea-numbing eardrops.
- Graffiti Paintball Kit: Contains all of the makings for splattering
miscellaneous verbiage on the school grounds. Also includes
official-looking invitations to distract up to three administrators with a
"lunch away," and two sets of stencils (12" and 28").
- Testing Your Shakespeare Professor’s Coffee Mug Contents for Traces of
Liquor Kit: Basically, it’s a miniature chemistry lab. Results may take up to
ten days to materialize; be patient and continue studying your Lear in the
- Whatnot and Detritus Kit: Ships overnight from the Jasper County
Landfill. No two Mystery Kits are quite the same, guaranteed.
- Lame Skit Kit: Two peacock feathers and a Julie Andrews audition cassette
tape. Cassette tape player not included.
- Time to Fill Friday Afternoon Roar For
John Kitna Kit:
inflatable Lions fan helmet and a package of 1000 thumb tacks. (Available only
in SE Michigan.) Going fast! The first fifty orders include a free autographed
Charles Rogers poster.
- Retired Mobile Devices Sandbox Kit: One 60G iPod with a dead battery, a
Nintendo Gameboy and two cell phones along with a twenty pound bag of Malibu
sand, and an instructional guide.
Ohmann, Richard M. English in America. 1976. New York: Oxford Univ.
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I’m intrigued by the Facebook’s expansion beyond colleges, as reported
Like any social networking app, the euphoria surrounding it is offset (too often
in extremes) by abuses, missteps, skepticism, and lags in the adaptation of
institutional policies to respond to the activity at the site. Yet recent
shift–ten corporations signing on–gets at the spreading recognition of the
value of social networking apps beyond mere friend-making, beyond
"poking" strangers as a casual gesture of interest. Prepared to engage social
networking as something more than trivial?
I’ll watch with interest as more reactions to the latest expansion crop up.
And those reactions will vary, of course, from
jeering to the more serious.
The announcement brings me all the way back to the earliest
the Facebook in 2004. If they’re expanding to workplaces, maybe it
won’t be long before leadership in the discipline starts weighing the
possibilities of the Facebook for an entire field, such as composition and
rhetoric. Granted, it wouldn’t be perfect, but the way I see it, it’d be a
marked improvement on the existing means for building and locating profiles,
tracing interests through those who’ve written on such things, and so on.
Imagine a use of Facebook with a professional orientation whereby disciplinary
bibliographies, institutional affiliations (and histories), and linked tags for
research and interests. I know it’s a wild, data-based fantasy, and it
would require us to see Facebook as more than forum for delinquency, but here’s
hoping. What, maybe five or ten years from now?